Debra J. Saunders

 Cliff May of the pro-war Foundation for the Defense of Democracies noted that it would be wrong to oust Rumsfeld if there is no good answer to the question "Who should replace him, and what policy should replace his?"

 Bush would have to pick someone else -- preferably someone who would carry out Rumsfeld's plans to transform the U.S. military (and don't expect any of Rummy's many critics to take on that thankless job). I asked Sen. John McCain last week if he'd be interested in the job. He said he could do more for the military if he heads the Senate Armed Services Committee in two years.

 Then there is the problem that if the Bushies found someone who would agree to sign on, then they'd have to sell the new guy to Congress.

 Also, after the Bernie Kerik fiasco, Bush would have to be a fool to risk nominating someone whose background could derail the nomination. Say what you will, but Rumsfeld knows how to withstand the brutal scrutiny of the public spotlight.

 For his part, Rumsfeld at least has attended some 36 town-hall meetings with U.S. troops who were given the opportunity to confront the secretary. If he were afraid of bad news, he would not put himself in that position. It's especially gutsy of Rumsfeld to expose himself to critical troops, considering that this is an age when style crimes and verbal gaffes -- for example, he didn't personally sign condolence letters himself, and he gave a less-than-artful answer at a meeting with troops in Kuwait -- do more damage to a career than a lost battle.

 Meanwhile, both Bush and Rumsfeld should find a dramatic way to assure U.S. troops that they will have the equipment and backing they deserve in combat. I don't want to hear that Rumsfeld is a nice guy. I want to know that Bush and Rumsfeld will do whatever needs to be done.

 But I didn't hear that.

Debra J. Saunders

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